Deficiencies in Vitamin D occur when the body doesn’t get enough of this nutrient from sunlight or diet. It is a very important nutrient for maintaining and regulating our immune system, and yet it is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide (Krati Chauhan and Huecker, 2019).
And you might be among the 1 billion people believed to have a Vitamin D deficiency. Or you might be part of the estimated 50% of the globe’s population that have insufficient levels of this critical fat-soluble vitamin (Sizar et al., 2020).
There is no one cause for developing a Vitamin D deficiency, so there might be lots of different factors involved in preventing you from getting what you need without supplementation. These factors can be the result of health conditions such as kidney disease or Crohn’s disease which affects nutrient absorption, or eating a diet which doesn’t include fish or dairy products.
Moreso, living in the Northern hemisphere where the winters are dark and dreary, working night shifts, or staying indoors can all affect the amount of Vitamin D our bodies are able to absorb through sunlight. Older people, people with darker skin tones, and people who are medically obese will also find it harder to get the Vitamin D they need from sunlight and diet alone. Therefore, it is important to recognise the symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency, so that it can be treated quickly.
What are the symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency?
The thing about Vitamin D deficiencies is that they could take months or even years to appear as your body depletes its reserves. This might even mean that you have a deficiency and don’t show any symptoms at all! Sometimes the only way to find out for definite is via blood test - these, however, are some of the most common symptoms of a deficiency:
- Getting sick more frequently: Low Vitamin D levels can be a factor in catching a cold or the flu, and also in developing infections - and the lack of sunlight in the winter may well help to explain why we’re all more prone to illness in the darker winter months. Vitamin D interacts with the cells in our bodies which are directly responsible for noticing and combating infections. A lack of Vitamin D can reduce the effectiveness of these interactions and lead to the development of illness. Studies have shown that low levels or deficiency in Vitamin D can increase the likelihood of developing pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory problems (Pletz et al., 2014).
- Slower healing: Vitamin D is believed to help the body create certain compounds which build new skin tissues after injury, so a slow rate of healing can be a sign of impaired levels of Vitamin D. Not only does Vitamin D help the body to create new tissue, it also plays a role in managing inflammation which can assist in the healing process (Fakheran, Khodadadi-Bohlouli and Khademi, 2019).
- Back pain and bone pain: Back pain, particularly in the lower back, and painful bones can also be a sign that your Vitamin D levels are running low. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from your diet, which helps to keep your bones strong and healthy. Pain in your bones can be a sign that you’re not getting enough Vitamin D to help with the absorption of calcium. Research is ongoing in this area, but it is thought that people who have conditions such as arthritis which affect bones and joints may have lower levels of Vitamin D than others (Bansal et al., 2018).
- Bone loss: As we’ve said before, Vitamin D is vital in helping the body to absorb calcium and making sure it gets deposited in the right places. A lack of Vitamin D can prevent adequate amounts of calcium from being absorbed and metabolised. This can cause the loss of bone mineral density, placing us at greater risk of fractures as we age. Bone pain can be a warning that the body isn’t able to use calcium properly, and any fractures could be a sign that you’re not getting enough Vitamin D to help with the regulation of calcium in your bones (Weaver et al., 2015).
- Fatigue: A Vitamin D deficiency can present as fatigue. Fatigue itself is not just being tired, you might notice certain levels of cognitive impairment, like being unable to concentrate or focus, as well as a feeling of weakness alongside a lack of motivation and energy. In children, a Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to negatively impact sleep quality, which can also lead to fatigue symptoms (Al-Shawwa, Ehsan and Ingram, 2020).
- Changes to your hair: A lack of Vitamin D can cause hair loss in some individuals. Studies have shown that low levels of Vitamin D, especially in women, can encourage the onset of an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata, which is also known as spot baldness. Alopecia areata attacks the hair follicles, the tiny pores from which new hairs grow, causing small round bald patches on the scalp. With Vitamin D playing so many roles in the regulation of our immune function, getting good amounts of Vitamin D can help to prevent certain autoimmune conditions from developing (Liu et al., 2020).
- Changes to your mental health: The symptoms of anxiety and depression can be increased in people with low levels of Vitamin D, and studies have shown that these symptoms can be favourably impacted with Vitamin D supplementation. (Menon and Vellekkatt, 2018).
- Weight gain: Whilst the loss of bone density and changes to hair as a result of poor Vitamin D intake are more prevalent in women, weight gain as a result of Vitamin D deficiency is more likely in men. Research is ongoing in this area, but an increase in belly fat, and an unexplained weight gain are both thought to be markers in Vitamin D deficiency (Jääskeläinen et al., 2020).
If you believe that you have a Vitamin D deficiency, you should speak to your doctor or healthcare provider to arrange a blood test. If the results show a deficiency, then you will likely be prescribed high strength Vitamin D tablets to help make your levels of Vitamin D sufficient again. With some specific conditions, or if you are taking certain medications, your doctor might prescribe you a longer term high level supplement to make sure that you do not become deficient again.
If this is not the case, then you can look to other forms of supplementation to keep your levels of this vital vitamin healthy. Vivo Life’s Vegan Liquid D3 supplement not only contains all the Vitamin D your body needs, it also contains Vitamin K2, which can help D3 be more effective. With 2,000IU of Vitamin D3 sustainably sourced from algae per serving, you can rest assured that your levels of Vitamin D can be maintained at a healthy level - you should still make sure you get out and enjoy the sunshine whenever you can though!
Pletz, M.W., Terkamp, C., Schumacher, U., Rohde, G., Schütte, H., Welte, T. and Bals, R. (2014). Vitamin D deficiency in community-acquired pneumonia: low levels of 1,25(OH)2 D are associated with disease severity. Respiratory Research, 15(1). doi:10.1186/1465-9921-15-53.
Bansal, D., Boya, C.S., Vatte, R. and Ghai, B. (2018). High Prevalence of Hypovitaminosis D in Patients with Low Back Pain: Evidence from Meta-Analysis. Pain Physician, [online] 21(4), pp.E389–E399. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30045605/
Fakheran, O., Khodadadi-Bohlouli, Z. and Khademi, A. (2019). Effect of vitamin D level on periodontal treatment outcomes: a systematic review. General Dentistry, [online] 67(2), pp.64–67. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30875309/
Weaver, C.M., Alexander, D.D., Boushey, C.J., Dawson-Hughes, B., Lappe, J.M., LeBoff, M.S., Liu, S., Looker, A.C., Wallace, T.C. and Wang, D.D. (2015). Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and risk of fractures: an updated meta-analysis from the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Osteoporosis International, 27(1), pp.367–376. doi:10.1007/s00198-015-3386-5.
Liu, Y., Li, J., Liang, G., Cheng, C., Li, Y. and Wu, X. (2020). Association of Alopecia Areata with Vitamin D and Calcium Levels: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Dermatology and Therapy, 10(5), pp.967–983. doi:10.1007/s13555-020-00433-4.
Jääskeläinen, T., Männistö, S., Härkänen, T., Sääksjärvi, K., Koskinen, S. and Lundqvist, A. (2020). Does vitamin D status predict weight gain or increase in waist circumference? Results from the longitudinal Health 2000/2011 Survey. Public Health Nutrition, 23(7), pp.1266–1272. doi:10.1017/s1368980019004403.
Menon, V. and Vellekkatt, F. (2018). Efficacy of vitamin D supplementation in major depression: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, 0(0), p.0. doi:10.4103/jpgm.jpgm_571_17.